Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Rachel's Guide to Cleaning Naturally for Less

            If your house is anything like mine was when I first had my own household, your cabinets below the sink are full of expensive bottles of 409, Windex, Lysol, Kitchen Cleaner, Bathroom Spray, Toilet Gel, Grout Whitener, Your Brand Laundry Detergent, Blue Fabric Softener, Dryer Sheets, etcetera. That’s over $50 of smelly, clutter-y bottles full of chemicals, some of which are deadly toxic! I quickly tired of using my inhaler every time I cleaned, breaking out in rashes from the harsh detergents, and spending so much money to keep my house germ-free so my baby didn’t get sick. But, you might ask, how can I do without my cleaners? I LIKE a fresh smelling house, I don’t want germs all over! Although, I could do with saving a little money… and I know toxic chemicals can’t be good for my family.

            I like a fresh smelling house too. Obviously, sterilizing your entire environment isn’t too great for you because then you’d never get immune to anything, but having it relatively germ free is a good thing, and I definitely like saving money. So, below I will give you a list of non-toxic ingredients that will change your cleaning experience forever. These 11 things will clean every part of your house for far less money than you’ve ever spent on cleaning supplies before.

            First you’ll need a few things to hold your ingredients and apply them. I suggest picking up a few one quart plastic spray bottles, my local $1 store carries them for, you guessed it, $1 each. You’ll be reusing these, so think of them as a one-time investment. Also, you will need a medium sized plastic bucket with a lid, reusing a cat litter bucket (you know, the one it comes in) is perfect for the job, and if you have a cat, is free. An old large Tupperware tub will do for this also. Snap up some old plastic measuring cups, or any dry measure that won’t corrode. Let’s pretend you don’t have any lying around, so again back to that $1 shop for measuring cups. You’ll need old jersey cotton t-shirts too, ones you don’t mind ripping up into cleaning cloths. Old terry towels will also work.  Hang on to your weekly newspaper, and that old Downy Ball? We’ll be using that too. You’ll also need your assortment of scrub brushes, sponges, and old toothbrushes. You may also consider picking up a wool dryer ball, which can be found on Amazon.com.

            Now, we’ll move on to the actual components of your new cleaners. You will need:

A box of 20 Mule Team Borax

Baking Soda

Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (laundry aisle)

Lemon Juice or Whole Lemons

Table Salt (preferably not iodized)

White Vinegar


Olive Oil

Your Favorite Essential Oil such as Thyme, Lavender, Lemon, etc. (optional, NOT “fragrance oil”)

12 ounces bar Castile soap, such as 3 bars Kirk’s All Natural Castile body soap or 2 bars Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar (made by Dial) which is in the laundry aisle (but any soap bearing the word soap on the label will do. Do not use detergent bars or beauty bars)

Liquid Castile Soap such as Dr. Bronner’s Lavender or Peppermint

            First, let’s begin in the kitchen.

All Purpose Cleaner for Kitchen/Bathroom:

1/8 cup Borax

20 drops essential oil of choice (optional)

1 scant Quart HOT tap water

A quart sized spray bottle

Funnel Borax into empty bottle. If desired, drop in about 20 drops of your preferred Essential oil, give or take 5 to your liking. After adding oils to Borax, fill the bottle with hot water from the tap, as hot as it goes, to within 1 ½ inch from the top. Cap tightly and shake until the Borax completely dissolves into the water, this may take a few minutes due to the oils. The order of ingredients is important to suspend oils in solution. Lemon or orange oil are great choices for this disinfecting cleaner. Now you are ready to label and use or store! This also cuts grease nicely. Spray, wipe with sponge, wipe dry with clean cloth rag for streak-free shine.

To disinfect a cutting board:

Wash cutting board like any other dish, then rub half a lemon vigorously over it, let set one minute, rinse. If wooden, re-oil periodically.

Sink/garbage disposal scouring/deodorizing:

Sprinkle baking soda generously on countertop/sink/down garbage disposal, fill clean spray bottle with white vinegar, spray onto baking soda. The fizzing action does wonders for stubborn odors and stains. Scrub if desired, wipe away with sponge. This also deodorizes your sponge! If using in garbage disposal, let set a few minutes then run hot water after while disposal is on. You can also run lemon segments through it for extra freshening.

Dish Soap for Handwashing:

Liquid Castile Soap

Favorite essential oils

Add a few drops of your preferred oils to a 16 oz bottle of liquid castile soap. This will not be quite as bubbly as those harsh detergents, but works well. Using lemon oil will add disinfectant properties.

For stubborn pots and pans:

Scour with salt and a little water, wash. Makes copper and stainless very shiny!

Floor Wash:

1 cup Washing Soda or Baking Soda

1 gallon warm water

3 TBS white vinegar

Few drops favorite Essential Oil (optional, mix into the powder before adding water)

Mix in mop bucket, mop as usual.

For a REALLY dirty floor:

Scour with scrub brush and baking or washing soda dampened with water, rinse well with clean mop and water.


Now let’s move on to the living room.

Window/Glass Cleaner:

In 1 qt spray bottle pour ¼ cup vinegar, fill with water. 1 tsp cornstarch can be added but is not necessary. Wipe glass with crumpled newspaper (not the glossy ads)  for streak-free shine. Everclear can be used in place of vinegar, keep alcohol away from children who might drink it.

Furniture Polish:

1 cup Lemon Juice

1Tbs Olive Oil

Mix together, rub on, set a few minutes, wipe off with clean soft rag.

Fabric Refresher:

1 cup Vinegar

10-12 drops Favorite Essential Oil (good choices are Rosemary, Lavender, Tea Tree, Thyme, Cinnamon)

Mix together in small spray bottle, spot test, then mist onto fabric until slightly damp but not wet. Vinegar smell disappears completely when dry, taking odor with it!

Carpet Freshener/Deodorizer:

1 cup Baking Soda

10 drops Favorite Essential Oil (for strong odors use Tea Tree, Rosemary, or Thyme)

Mix thoroughly, sprinkle on carpet. Set 15 minutes, vacuum!

Let’s scoot on over to the bathroom. You can use the All-Purpose cleaner or the sink scrub in here, but what about that tile? There’s a solution for that too!

Grout Scrub:

1 cup Baking Soda

1/3 cup warm water

Mix into paste, apply and scrub with old toothbrush. Wipe away with wet sponge.

For Tough Mildew in Grout:

Spray on straight vinegar, set 10 minutes, then use grout scrub and rinse.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner:

¼ cup Baking Soda

1 cup Vinegar

Mix in bowl, scrub. For tough rings let vinegar set on stains 10 minutes then scrub.

Finally, we come to the last thing: laundry. The house is clean, but you need clothes, right? Throw out your ideas about detergent. That liquid you love is mostly water. If you must, you can use diluted castile soap and baking soda, but I don’t have a recipe for that. Instead, I use this fabulous stuff, which is good even in hard water.

Rachel’s Laundry Powder

3 bars Castile Soap or 2 bars Fels-Naptha

6 cups Washing Soda

6 cups Borax

2 cups Baking Soda

Finely shred or grate soap using a stainless steel cheese grater. I hear you can also use a food processor. In that cat litter bucket I talked about, mix all ingredients. Use 1/8 cup for small and medium loads or HE washers, ¼ cup for large or heavily stained loads. Place soap in bottom of washer before adding water or clothes.

Fabric Softener:

Fill Downy Ball or washer cup to appropriate line with vinegar. Don’t worry, your clothes will not smell like vinegar! You can add a few drops of essential oil at this time.

Dryer Sheets:

Use a square of wool or flannel, drop a few drops of essential oil onto this cloth, toss in with clothes. A better option is to use Wool Dryer Balls, which can be found on Amazon.com or natural household product websites. They work in the same manner, add oils and toss them in! Used in conjunction with my laundry powder, clothes are virtually cling free.


Moisten stain, rub with Fels-Naptha bar or castile soap bar. Let set for ½ hour or until you wash laundry. Wash as usual.

            As you can see, there are many inexpensive natural alternatives to commercial chemical products. I hope you found my advice useful, and enjoy your new, natural cleaning experience!